Kempsey demands safe staffing in ED

Nurses and community members take to the streets; 5,000 sign petition demanding one more registered nurse per shift in ED.

NSWNA Kempsey Hospital Branch has launched a campaign to demand one more Registered Nurse per shift for the hospital’s overloaded Emergency Department.

Kempsey nurses took to the streets and called for public support for their case, after the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) refused for two years to address nurses’ concerns over inadequate staffing.

The campaign was launched with a public rally on 26 November, and more than 5,000 Kempsey community members have signed a petition demanding one more Registered Nurse per shift in ED.

A candlelight vigil was held on 16 December and a public march on 27 January to highlight nurses’ grave concerns that the understaffed ED poses a serious risk to patient safety and erodes their ability to deliver high quality care.

‘It’s bedlam all the time in ED; nurses have an incredible workload and are at breaking point,’ said Di Lohman, RN and Branch Secretary at Kempsey Hospital. ‘But our real concern is patient care and safety.’

‘We’ve had a serious staffing problem in ED for two years, after the NCAHS increased beds but didn’t increase staffing. Last year we had 22,000 presentations, up from 16,000 in 2008, and an extra four beds were opened – but we have had no extra nurses. There is no RN for triage,’ said Di.

‘We have high levels of Indigenous presentations at Kempsey – 14%, compared to the State average of 3%. Indigenous patients have more complex health needs than the general population.

‘We have higher trauma presentations than Port Macquarie Base Hospital, which has three times the number of nurses in ED,’ said Di.

The dispute has been dragging on since the NSWNA initially took the NCAHS to the Australian Industrial Relation Commission over workloads issues two years ago.

The NCAHS dragged the case on and on by demanding endless data and delayed responses. After months of frustration and delay the claim was so outdated the NSWNA withdrew its case from the Commission and the Branch took it to the community.

‘Kempsey nurses working in ED have had enough. We have lost dedicated, qualified nurses. Nurses just can’t keep on working in such a stressful environment.

‘Kempsey is a busy regional hospital and we deserve to be resourced properly.

‘We are asking the community to get behind nurses; we’re asking them to write to the Health Minister, their local MPs, and NCAHS CEO Chris Crawford,’ said Di.

At the time of printing, no response had been received from NCAHS CEO Chris Crawford and the NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt to the public petition and hundreds of letters from the Kempsey community.